Like most sane people, I hate writing exams. I become this paranoid, self-doubting kumquat every time I have to sit in a room with other people trying to answer as much as I can to salvage grades. As I sit scratching my head over some question, I always think to myself “Why didn’t you learn anything, fool?”.

Most students, including myself, just cram days before an exam, and expect that “hard work” will be able to get them through a 1-2 hour exam. If the exam didn’t go as well, I usually whine about it and compare my situation to other students in the class.

“Oh man, I hope everyone in the class did as bad as me – that way the mark will get adjusted!” (usual Julia thought)

There have only been a handful of courses I have taken at university where I have actually learned something and not “studied” for the sake of marks. Whenever I “study” for the sake of marks, cram readings or binge-write all the past exams, I never retain knowledge and my grades reflect this.

I would call this “over-studying” – forcing yourself to learn too much at once and losing your mind when you write the exam.

“Why don’t you just make an effort to learn from Day 1?”

Let’s face it, life is fucking messy. Lectures become boring for whatever reason, we get distracted by our social lives, the material is difficult to relate to, etc.

“Organization is the key to better study habits”

This is easy to say while waving your hands in the air. But honestly, who has the time and patience to figure out how to devote themselves to a course? Most people are taking multiple courses and dealing with intersecting deadlines.

The more I think about what to write next, the more I am realizing how important it is to be honest to yourself. I could totally spend hours blaming the education system, the professor, or the exam itself on my performance, good or bad. Of course, those factors could have problems. But really, it all boils down to how self-aware you are of your learning. If you’re sitting in class, half asleep, and confused as hell… maybe you should do something about it. Get extra help! Drop the course if it’s too hard! Find a creative way to relate more to the material! Do anything to avoid having your brain melt in an exam room. If that even means not being a student anymore, then there’s no shame in that.

We learn in such unique and complex ways, it’s a shame that we have to resort to memorizing answers or pulling all-nighters to feel like we are learning. It’s time to do something about it (and to sleep). Nighty night!

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Some personal things on self-harm
Handling the haters

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